There are mysteries that will outlive the year that is fast drawing to a close.
What happened to the Miramar cashier who disappeared in October? Who killed that driver on Florida’s Turnpike back in May? And where is the former candidate for sheriff who’s wanted for alleged campaign violations?
Investigators across South Florida may have to wait until 2010 to solve several of this year’s deaths and disappearances, all of which remain either shrouded in mystery or awaiting resolution.
Gone without explanation
Lisa Spence’s friends and family say she wouldn’t voluntarily disappear without a word.
The 35-year-old Miramar woman, a cashier in a business plaza, was last seen Oct. 7, and police have classified her disappearance as suspicious. Miramar police spokeswoman Tania Rues said police have been in touch with Spence’s family, as they continue searching for her.
“They’re simply devastated,” Rues said of Spence’s children, ages 18 and 9.
Other disappearances also have police and families perplexed.
Thomas Godwin, a 53-year-old Davie man who kept mostly to himself, disappeared in May, along with his beloved dog, Foxy. The former Marine was facing health issues and about to lose his job when it seemed as though he vanished into thin air, his family said.
Davie police investigated, but Godwin hasn’t resurfaced.
Meanwhile, Florida International University police are still trying to find FIU law student Tommy Damon Daniels, who was reported missing last month. Police are looking for Daniels in hospitals, shelters and other facilities.
Daniels’ friends last saw him at a West Miami-Dade County pizzeria and reported him missing days later, on Nov. 11. Aside from Daniels speaking with Miami Beach police on Nov. 5, no one has reported seeing him since.
“During this holiday season, Tommy’s family could have no better gift than to be reunited with him,” FIU Police Chief Bill King said in a statement.
On the lam?
The disappearance of a Coconut Creek businessman who recently ran for Broward County sheriff is more than likely voluntary, authorities said. A arrest warrant for Shahrukh “Shak” Dhanji was issued in February, but authorities haven’t nabbed him.
“We do believe he is in a foreign country, but we can’t say which one,” said Kristen Chernosky, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The FDLE accused Dhanji of illegally funneling thousands of dollars into his campaign coffers before the 2008 election.
Dhanji’s motive, one campaign helper told investigators, was to try to scare his opponents into quitting the race, officials said.
It didn’t work. Dhanji was one of four Democratic candidates for sheriff defeated by Scott J. Israel in last year’s primary election before incumbent Republican Sheriff Al Lamberti bested Israel in the general election.
The shooters of several men killed outside their homes and on Florida’s Turnpike this year also remain at large.
Davie police are still trying to figure out who opened fire at Samuel Ferguson, 47, of North Miami, from another vehicle on the turnpike in mid-August. Ferguson’s car crashed into the median near Griffin Road, but an autopsy showed gunshots before the crash killed him.
In Delray Beach, police are still looking for whomever killed Mark Harriss, 30, outside his home in May. Witnesses saw a white car leave the scene, but police are awaiting additional information to solve the case.
A drive-by shooter also left 31-year-old Sheldon Williams dead in a residential Sunrise neighborhood the night of Feb. 15. A red or burgundy four-door sedan is believed to be the shooter’s car, but police haven’t found the car or its driver.
In an unsolved Fort Lauderdale hit-and-run case, a white Porsche 911 Turbo was the weapon, killing two British businessmen. Craig Elford, 39, and Kenneth Watkinson, 48, died Feb. 13, when the car struck them on a sidewalk and sped away.
Police think either the Porsche’s owner or his friend was behind the wheel, but no arrests have been made.
What caused their deaths?
Coral Springs police haven’t determined what caused Nicholas Odze, a 4-year-old boy, to die in September.
Sgt. Joe McHugh said police expect to wrap up the case next year, when additional toxicology tests determine whether the boy overdosed on a Lunesta sleeping pill. No charges have been filed.
The homicide of a 41-year-old inmate at the Broward Jail this summer also remains a mystery.
The case is now in prosecutors’ hands, but officials haven’t said who killed Jeffrey Willis, whether he was killed in or outside the jail or whether anyone will be charged. Willis died of internal bleeding.
Widespread media attention also has endured for the region’s two unresolved multiple-murder cases.
Police are on the hunt for Paul Michael Merhige, a 35-year-old Miami man accused of killing four relatives at a Thanksgiving dinner in Jupiter.
Meanwhile, Miramar police haven’t determined who killed three people whose bodies were found in a house Aug. 17.
Two of the victims, Nekitta Hamilton and Davion Bishop, were only 15 years old. The other victim was Bishop’s mother, Faith Bisasor, 49.
Anyone with information about these cases can anonymously call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS (8477), Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIPS (8477) or Palm Beach County Crime Stoppers at 800-458-TIPS (8477).